Dangerous deception, p.1
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       Dangerous Deception, p.1
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         Part #2 of Dangerous Creatures series by Kami Garcia
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Dangerous Deception


  Contents

  BEFORE: Link

  CHAPTER 1: NOX: Ring of Fire

  CHAPTER 2: LINK: Don’t Know What You Got (Till It’s Gone)

  CHAPTER 3: NOX: Street of Dreams

  CHAPTER 4: RIDLEY: Dreaming Neon Black

  CHAPTER 5: LINK: London Calling

  CHAPTER 6: NOX: South of Heaven

  CHAPTER 7: RIDLEY: Return of the Warlord

  CHAPTER 8: LINK: Winds of Change

  CHAPTER 9: NOX: Gates of Tomorrow

  CHAPTER 10: RIDLEY: Shout at the Devil

  CHAPTER 11: LINK: Wasted Years

  CHAPTER 12: NOX: Every Rose Has Its Thorn

  CHAPTER 13: RIDLEY: Mockingbird

  CHAPTER 14: LINK: Electric Funeral

  CHAPTER 15: NOX: No One Like You

  CHAPTER 16: RIDLEY: Silent Lucidity

  CHAPTER 17: LINK: Wanted Dead or Alive

  CHAPTER 18: NOX: What Is and What Should Never Be

  CHAPTER 19: RIDLEY: Eyes of a Stranger

  CHAPTER 20: LINK: Tornado of Souls

  CHAPTER 21: NOX: Witching Hour

  CHAPTER 22: RIDLEY: Revolution Calling

  CHAPTER 23: LINK: Queen of the Reich

  CHAPTER 24: NOX: Pull Me Under

  CHAPTER 25: LINK: Diary of a Madman

  CHAPTER 26: NOX: Rainbow in the Dark

  CHAPTER 27: RIDLEY: Powerslave

  CHAPTER 28: LINK: At War with Satan

  CHAPTER 29: LINK: Bringin’ on the Heartbreak

  CHAPTER 30: NOX: Heaven and Hell

  AFTER: Ridley

  Acknowledgments

  Follow Penguin

  KAMI GARCIA and MARGARET STOHL are longtime friends and co-authors of the #1 New York Times bestselling Beautiful Creatures series. The first book in the series, Beautiful Creatures, is now a major motion picture.

  In addition to writing together, they have written solo series: The Legion series by Kami Garcia includes the instant New York Times bestsellers Unbreakable and Unmarked; and the Icons series by Margaret Stohl includes Icons, which is currently in development as a feature film, and Idols.

  Kami and Margaret invite you to visit them online at www.kamigarcia.com and www.margaret-stohl.com.

  PENGUIN BOOKS

  DANGEROUS DECEPTION

  Praise for the Beautiful Creatures series:

  ‘Watch out Twilight and The Hunger Games’ Guardian

  ‘This novel has been creating Twilight-level buzz’ Teen Vogue

  ‘A headlong read from start to finish’ She

  ‘Beautiful Creatures is gorgeously crafted, atmospheric and original. I devoured it’ Melissa Marr, New York Times bestselling author

  ‘A lush Southern gothic whose memorable, eccentric characters draw you into their captivating world’ Holly Black, New York Times bestselling author of The Spiderwick Chronicles

  ‘A hauntingly delicious dark fantasy, a cast of fascinating characters, a rich Gothic setting’ Cassandra Clare, New York Times bestselling author of The Mortal Instruments series

  For Nox & Floyd, because it isn’t easy loving someone who doesn’t belong to you.

  And for our readers, who love them all the same.

  The depth of darkness to which you can descend and still live is an exact measure of the height to which you can aspire to reach.

  —PLINY THE ELDER

  BEFORE

  Link

  Love is ten kinds a crazy, right?

  Especially when you meet the person you want to spend the rest of your life with when you’re still in high school? The girl who is gonna elbow her way into more chapters of your autobiography than your folks, your car, and your best friend? The one who’s got Satan on her speed dial, at least accordin’ to all the parents in the Stonewall Jackson PTA.

  Ridley Duchannes is every mother’s nightmare—and a whole different kinda nightmare for their sons. Let me put it to you this way: If you can get away, run. Don’t walk. Because once you’re exposed, you’ll never get a Siren outta your head.

  If they ever make a vaccine for Ridley Duchannes, I’ll be first in line.

  But once you’ve been exposed, things get a lot more complicated. Rid’s like those killer viruses they’re always talkin’ about on the Discovery Channel. She changes everything—including you.

  What I’m tryin’ to say is, it’s too late for me. I’m headed down a one-way street, with no stoplights and no brakes. The craziest part is that I don’t even wanna turn back, and you wouldn’t, either. You don’t need a Caster mood ring to tell you that.

  Because there are three kinds of girls in the world.

  Good girls.

  Bad girls.

  And Ridley Duchannes.

  Rid’s in a category all her own—and trust me, she’s earned it. She’ll let you peek in the window, right before she slams the door in your face. She does what she wants, says what she wants, and lovesick guys like me still write songs about her.

  Sure, she scammed me into comin’ to New York with her and joinin’ a Dark Caster band. She even pretended we were goin’ there to make all my dreams come true, instead a settling her debt with Lennox Gates. Not every girl bets her boyfriend’s future in a Caster card game, that’s for sure. Like I said, ten kinds a crazy.

  And the part that’s even crazier? How much your life feels like it’s over when she’s not around to wreck it anymore.

  But I’m gettin’ ahead of myself.

  It all started with a fire.

  CHAPTER 1: NOX

  Ring of Fire

  Nox woke up on the floor in the back of the SUV. The last thing he remembered was the car driving away from what was left of his club Sirene … before Silas’ thugs started beating on him and he blacked out.

  Not that it mattered.

  Between all the smoke he’d inhaled inside the burning club and the two Dark Casters kicking the crap out of him, he wasn’t sure how much more he could take. Mortals weren’t the only ones who had their limits.

  The car rolled to a stop, and a moment later, the sunlight blinded Nox as the driver opened the door.

  Silas Ravenwood climbed out and stood over him, smoking a cigar. “I’d like to say it’s been fun, kid. But mostly, you’ve been a huge waste of my time.” He flicked his cigar at Nox, missing his face by just inches. “And a waste of a Caster. Not that I’d expect much more from the son of a whore.”

  “Good one. Never heard that one before.”

  Silas punched him in the face, sending a spray of blood across his cheekbone.

  Nox clenched his fists, but he didn’t move. There was no point anymore. Ridley was safely gone, and he was going to take his beating like a man. He had known this would be coming when he set fire to Sirene instead of delivering Ridley and the quarter Incubus to Silas Ravenwood as promised.

  But I’ll kill you one day, Silas. I swear to God. Then you can rot in the Otherworld with Abraham.

  Silas stood in the shadow of the alley. “See you in the next life, kid. It’s sure as hell your last day in this one.” He slammed the door, and the driver pulled away from the curb.

  Once Silas was gone, the real beatings started. Enough blows to the head, and Nox barely remembered his own name. Even worse, he had no idea where he was, or where they were taking him.

  The river was his best guess. Maybe they’d toss him in like a sack of kittens.

  I’d be lucky to get off that easy.

  Then the SUV stopped at a red light.

  Nox could see the cloud of smoke above the club in the distance. He was still staring at the smoke, dazed, when the side window next to him shattered.

  A hand the size of a dinner plate plunged through the glass.

  Sampson dragged one of Silas’ men out through the window and unl
ocked the door before the driver even realized what was happening. Instead of hitting the gas, the idiot came out and tried to take on close to seven feet of angry Darkborn.

  Bad move, big guy.

  Silas’ other lackey was still in the back with Nox, and he jumped out to help. Sampson hurled him headfirst into a sign, leaving the guy’s face almost as cut up as Sampson’s hand. Nox crawled out of the car and stumbled to his feet, but the fight was already over. The driver and one of Silas’ thugs were knocked out cold, and Sampson finished off the second guy, who was bleeding under the sign, with one hard stomp from his size fifteen Red Wings.

  The Darkborn grabbed Nox by the arm and shoved him into the passenger seat of the SUV. “You’re welcome. Now get your ass in the car.”

  “Sam, look at your hand.” Nox could barely get the words out, but he pointed at the gashes slicing through his friend’s skin and the blood running down his arm.

  Sampson yanked his sleeveless T-shirt over his head and tugged down the ripped Sex Pistols one he was wearing underneath. “Wrap it around my fingers, but not too tight. I’ll take care of it. After we get out of here.”

  “I owe you one,” Nox said as he picked the slivers of glass out of Sampson’s hand with a pair of tweezers. He had so much gauze stuffed up his bloody nose that he wasn’t sure if Sampson could understand what he was saying.

  After they’d ditched Silas’ men, Nox had bought a first-aid kit from the nearest Duane Reade drugstore. Now they were parked in a seedy long-term lot near Penn Station, and it was the best Nox had felt all day. He could almost see out of one eye, and Silas’ thugs hadn’t knocked out any of his teeth.

  It’s the little things.

  “One?” Sampson winced as Nox pulled out a big piece of glass. “You owe me three or four by now, boss,” the huge Darkborn said.

  “You don’t have to call me that anymore. The club is gone, and opening another one would be like sending Silas an invitation to kill me.”

  “You mean another invitation?” Sampson didn’t smile.

  Nox ignored him, tossing a piece of glass on the dashboard. “So I hope you didn’t risk your life for a job.”

  Sampson’s jaw tightened. “There are other cities. And if you think I saved your ass and stole one of Silas Ravenwood’s cars because of some crappy job, you don’t know me very well.”

  Nox felt like a jerk. “Sorry, Sam.”

  “Forget it. You’re just lucky those guys didn’t kill you before I got there.”

  Nox knew Sampson was right, but he didn’t feel lucky. Alive was different from lucky. A guy had to be pretty unlucky to lose the only girl he’d ever cared about.

  Nox tipped the bottle of peroxide over Sampson’s gnarled hand. “I think it’s all out.”

  “Just wrap it up,” Sampson said. “Darkborns heal pretty fast.”

  Nox wound a whole roll of gauze around his friend’s hand until it looked like a prizefighter’s.

  Sampson pointed at his face. “You better clean out that cut on your cheek, stitch it up. Pretty boys don’t look so pretty with scars.”

  “Yeah?” Nox flipped open the mirror on the visor and cringed. He looked like crap. Silas’ punch had left a gash across his cheek. “I don’t know, I think I look good. All things considered.”

  “Good for a hamburger, maybe. A rare one. Now sew that thing shut.” Sampson screwed the top off a bottle of rubbing alcohol. “You’re out of peroxide. Time to man up.”

  Nox found a needle in the first-aid kit and poured alcohol all over it. He was looking forward to the pain.

  But the moment Sampson flicked on a lighter and Nox saw the flame, he felt something else. The alcohol stung Nox’s skin, and the world faded away….

  The sight of a flame triggered Nox’s Sight, and the vision hit him all at once.

  The fire …

  Ridley’s screams …

  The fear.

  This time he heard the impact.

  Metal crushing.

  Brakes squealing.

  It was the last sound that hit him like a kick in the gut. A song—“Stairway to Heaven.”

  Nox had seen hints of this before in his visions, but the details had never been clear enough. It had always been a vague future. But it had become a reality.

  This was the outcome he’d been desperate to avoid. If only he’d put the pieces together sooner.

  So he hadn’t saved Ridley from dying in a fire. He’d saved her from dying in one particular fire—the one at Sirene—only to let her die in another, the one at the car wreck. He’d done everything he could to keep her from meeting the fate he’d seen laid out for her in his dreams, and he had still failed.

  I gave up too easily. I shouldn’t have let her leave with that idiot hybrid. I should’ve asked her to choose me.

  He’d sacrificed everything to protect Ridley—his club, his safety, even his heart. And it had been pointless. He hadn’t protected her from anything.

  Then I pushed her right into another guy’s arms.

  I thought he could protect her. I thought he was better for her. Safer.

  Who’s the idiot now?

  “What’s wrong, Nox?” Sampson asked.

  “Everything.” Nox could barely move his jaw, but he forced the words out somehow. “She’s in trouble, Sam. We’ve gotta go. Now.”

  Finding the location of the crash was the easy part; in Nox’s vision, the flames were already melting the road signs, which meant he’d gotten a good look at them in the process. “Hurry, Sam. We don’t have much time.”

  What if we’re already too late? Nox thought.

  Nox stared out the window in a daze, trying to blot out the images of the fire and the sound of Ridley’s screams. He pressed against his stitches, trying to feel the pain. At least his pain distracted him from hers.

  She’s not dead. I’d know. I would’ve felt it.

  Right?

  He pressed harder.

  Sampson didn’t say a word, but the speedometer inched up past ninety, and he covered a hundred miles in less than an hour.

  By the time Nox spotted the cloud of black smoke, he was practically jumping out of his skin. The wind blew the dirty air through the SUV’s broken window as they approached the flashing lights—two police cars, a fire engine, and an ambulance on the shoulder of the highway—behind a perimeter of orange cones and flares. One of the cops stood in the road, waving cars past the crash site. Traffic slowed as drivers rubbernecked while passing the wreckage.

  Nox scanned the area for any sign of Ridley or a blue and white medical examiner’s van.

  It’s not here. Not yet.

  Sampson shook his head. “It looks bad.”

  Up close, it looked even worse. What was left of Link’s piece-of-crap car was crushed like a tin can, and firefighters were hosing down the half-melted body of the Beater.

  As Sampson guided the SUV toward the shoulder, Nox jumped out and bolted for the ambulance. He held his breath when he glanced at the wreckage. No bodies or body bags. Just a lot of charred and banged-up metal. Smoldering upholstery. Shattered glass.

  Where is she?

  Two paramedics were standing around behind the ambulance.

  “Is she okay?” Nox asked, out of breath.

  One of them looked up at him, confused. “Excuse me?”

  “The girl in the car. Is she okay?” Nox repeated.

  The paramedics exchanged a strange look. “There was no one in the car when we got here. It was a hit-and-run. The police checked the area, but they couldn’t find any sign of the driver. Do you know whose car this is?”

  “Yeah. It belongs to this guy we know,” Nox said as Sampson caught up with him.

  One of the paramedics stepped back at the sight of the Darkborn. It was everyone’s reaction to Sampson. At over six foot five, he looked like a linebacker.

  “The police are trying to figure out what happened to the driver,” the paramedic said. “They’ll probably want to talk to you guys.” He took a clos
er look at Nox. “What happened to your face?”

  Nox stiffened. “I got in a fight.”

  The paramedic looked at him skeptically.

  “More than one,” Nox added. “What are you, my mother?”

  The paramedic glanced over at the nearest police car. “Wait here.”

  The moment the guy turned his back on them, Sampson shoved Nox in the direction of the SUV. “We need to bail. As much as I don’t like Mortals, I hate cops even more.”

  Nox agreed, and after seeing the wreckage, part of him was relieved Ridley wasn’t there.

  She’s not dead. There would be a body.

  But another part of him had a bad feeling.

  Don’t fool yourself. Nobody could walk away from an accident like that. The Beater looks like a burnt pretzel.

  Lennox Gates’ feelings were never simple when it came to Ridley Duchannes. There was no reason to expect them to be any less complex now. He climbed back into the car and slammed the door. “We need to figure out where she is. Fast.”

  “I’ll work on that as soon as I get us out of here.” Sampson threw the SUV into reverse, guided the car off the shoulder of the road, and flipped a U-turn. He waited until the flashing lights were out of sight before he hit the gas.

  “Relax. It’s not a high-speed chase.” Nox grabbed the door.

  The Darkborn glanced at the rearview mirror. “Not yet.”

  “We haven’t done anything wrong,” Nox said, though he didn’t sound convinced.

  “Yeah? That’s not how it looks.” Sampson kept his eyes on the road. “My hand is bleeding. The window is shattered. And you look like you lost a cage fight.”

  “Think it’s possible she walked away from the crash?” Nox asked, hating how desperate he sounded. He didn’t want to say the words out loud.

  She’s alive. She has to be.

  “I don’t know.” Sampson seemed doubtful. “The back of the car was crushed.” He glanced at Nox. “But yeah, anything’s possible.”

  As Sampson turned back onto the highway, Nox noticed something on the side of the road. Something small, and furry, and out of place.

 
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